Teaching Children About Marriage: A Conversation with Jani Ortlund


The first poem we find in sacred Scripture is an ode to Eve—a wedding poem—and its lyrics are the only human words recorded pre-Fall. The Bible begins with a wedding and ends with an unblemished bride dwelling eternally with her faithful Bridegroom (Revelation 21:2). Biblical marriage is God’s idea and it reflects His wisdom and love for us.

We live in a world today where the word “marriage” itself can be controversial. There are various pictures painted for children on what marriage is. A clear and solid understanding of God’s idea of marriage is needed. How can Christian parents offer a gloriously high view of biblical marriage to their children with both grace and truth? 

I’m thankful for the wisdom of Jani Ortlund’s A Child’s First Book About Marriage: God’s Way is Always Best. My husband and I have found this book to be incredibly helpful in giving our young children foundational teaching on biblical marriage. Our hope is to set all other ideas of marriage against this first picture, as we pray for their hearts to believe that God’s way is best!

I’m honored to chat with Jani today on teaching children about marriage. May the Lord use her words to encourage and help equip us with everything good that we may do His will (Hebrews 13:21).

Nana Dolce: Jani, thank you so much for your time today. I’m so honored to chat with you. Before we begin, would you mind sharing a bit about yourself? Who are you? Where do you live? What do you do? Who do you love?

Jani Ortlund: Thank you for asking me!  I live in Franklin, TN, with the love of my life, Ray Ortlund.  We have been married for almost 48 years, have four married children and 13 grandchildren so far.  My husband has served Christ both as a pastor and a seminary professor, and I have been delighted to help him through the years.  Ray recently stepped down as lead pastor of Immanuel Church, Nashville, and is now serving there part-time as Pastor to Pastor. We both serve Christ through Renewal Ministries where we speak and write. I also host the He Restores My Soul podcast.

ND: Thank you, Jani! Why did you write A Child’s First Book About Marriage? Why this topic for young children? How can it serve families? 

JO: I wrote this book for my grandchildren.  Children naturally have questions about marriage, real questions that deserve honest answers.  In our culture, children are surrounded by confusing messages and experiences about gender, romance, and marriage. I found it hard to find resources to help the little ones in my life begin to understand these glorious, but complex issues.  I wanted their earliest understanding of marriage to begin with confidence that marriage between one man and one woman for all of life is God’s very good idea and He can be trusted. 


ND: Your book on marriage begins in Genesis 1-2. Why did you start here? Why is the doctrine of creation the right foundation for helping children understand God’s good idea of marriage?

JO:  I want children to see that God created marriage.  Marriage is not something that evolved through human civilizations.  I want children to understand how very special it is to be created either a man or a woman.  God brought the very first woman to the very first man like the father of the bride (Genesis 2:22) and joined them together in a one-flesh relationship (Matthew 19:4-6).  Children can not understand biblical marriage unless they understand gender. And gender is highlighted right there at creation (Genesis 1:27).


ND: We live in a post-Genesis 3 world where many marriages (including those in our churches) do not always reflect God’s idea from the beginning. How can your book serve all children--including those whose parents are apart? 

JO:  We never want to add to the hurt that broken marriages, broken promises, bring to a child’s tender heart.  I tried in my book to give children a beautiful and enticing view of what God created marriage to be, while at the same time speaking carefully into the brokenness that surrounds us all.  Children need to know that even when the adults in their lives disappoint or hurt them, they have a heavenly Father who loves them deeply and will never leave them.

ND: You write this in the book: “There are laws of the land and there are God’s laws, and they are not always the same.” Jani, your book is a helpful resource for parents and teachers today. The book is principally about biblical marriage and yet it can offer a simple first introduction to the topic of gay marriage. How can your book prepare families for a primary discussion of that topic? 

JO: As parents and teachers read this book with children, they can talk together about how some people do not believe God’s way is best.  Some people think they will be happier if they can do what they want and decide for themselves what marriage should be. This is a wonderful time to talk with children about trusting God.  Part of following God is believing what He says even if the country we are living in does not.


ND: We live in communities with various family structures and arrangements. How can parents teach a high view of biblical marriage with both grace and truth? How can we affirm God’s idea of one man and one woman married for life, while also stressing the love of all neighbors? 

JO:  It is vital that children have opportunities to get to know people who do not believe that they need to follow the God of the Bible.  It will open up wonderful avenues of discussion and give adults a chance to model and talk through with the children in their lives how to treat others with kindness even when we disagree.


ND: Jani, thank you for your time and the wisdom of this book! As we leave, can I ask you how God has used this book as a means of sanctification in your own heart? And what is your prayer for families as we read your words?

JO:  Thank you for the privilege of chatting with you.  The Lord has used this book to force me to be able to articulate what I believe the Bible teaches about marriage and romance in a way that even young children can understand.  This wasn’t easy for me, but very helpful! I pray that God will use this book to help families talk together about the beautiful gift that God has given us through marriage and that this rising generation will be strengthened in their confidence that God’s way is always best! 

Jani Ortlund is executive vice president of Renewal Ministries and loves spending her energies connecting women with the Word of God. Serving Jesus Christ through writing, speaking, and discipling are her chief passions in life. Jani and Ray have four married children and thirteen grandchildren, and minister in Nashville. Find Jani at her podcast, He Restores My Soul.